Question of death

Hm… some small thoughts from my discussion with a good friend of mine: maybe the question of death should precede the question of life.

If we take the question of death as seriously as the question of life, then maybe we can say that we have started off with a wrong starting point in our search for our personal meaning in life. Most of us take our current situation as the starting point from where we try to find ways to alter our current situation into happier states. Maybe, in order to gain true happiness, we should start with the undeniable fact that one day we will die. It’s the surest thing that will happen to us so why not simply accept it. Once we accept it, we don’t feel the need to deceive ourselves anymore in fairytales of after-lives, of God, of any other metaphysical being or otherworld. Then, by being conscious of death and being free from death anxiety, we can finally accept ourselves as ultimately responsible for our own lives. It’s empowering as it places tremendous power into our own bodies.
Camus’ existential statement that “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide” then suddenly may be not very far out of place. He might have seen that the question of death should precede the question of life as well.

Ultimately Being’s being-towards-death creates the awareness of the possibilities of existence. In order to be aware of these, one must be aware of the possibility of nonexistence – hence being aware that one day we will day and not exist anymore.

Authentic existence is awareness of the possibilities of being-relations, and the awareness of the metaphysical significance of death. Inauthentic existence is grounded in preoccupation with actuality. It is not aware of our eventual death, it does not see the importance of possibility, and is therefore extremely dull and poor.

Heidegger Death and pettiness of life


Innovation and its adoption

At the moment I am working as a Jr. Sitecore Developer within Eneco Holding, the third largest energy company in Holland. The company is extremely dynamic, has the great ambition to become a market leader through innovation, and is in the midst of a transformative process towards Agile management. Working inside a fast-paced environment like Eneco, I cannot help but think more deeply about the nature of innovation. I have read some chapters of Prof. Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations in order to have a better grasp of the conception of innovation. The goal of this post is to describe shortly what innovation is according to Rogers.

Rogers defines innovation as

“an idea, practice, or object perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption. … The characteristics of an innovation, as perceived by the members of a social system, determine its rate of adoption. Five attributes of innovations are: (1) relative advantage, (2) compatibility, (3) complexity, (4) trialability, and (5) observability.”

The adoption rate is the speed with which a social system adopts an innovation.

(1) The relative advantage is the perceived advantage of one innovation over a previous idea or innovation and is in positive relation to its rate of adoption. The members’ willingness to take part of a particular programme can be incentivized through payments or subsidies, because it increases the degree of relative advantage of the innovation;

(2) Compatibility is positively related to the adoption rate. Compatibility “is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters”;

(3) Complexity is the perception of how difficult it is to understand or use the innovation.It is negatively related to its adoption rate;
Trialability and observability are both positively related to an innovation’s rate of adoption.

(4) Trialability is the degree to which an innovation can be experimented with;

(5) Observability is the degree to which results of an innovation are visible to others.

Rogers has put the adoption rate of innovations in the following graph in which he divides adopters into five categories: the innovators, the early adopters, the early majority adopters, the late majority adopters, and the laggards:
Rogers - Diffusion of Innovation

Machines that own themselves in SAFEcoin

I was reading through some of David Irvine’s essays and came across his astonishing vision of how machines would own themselves in bitcoins within the near future that I would like to share with you. David Irvine is founder and CEO of Maidsafe, the inventor of SAFE Network which will hopefully provide us with a decentralized internet that is much more secure and brings us much more freedom. How he intends to achieve this can be read here. An attentive reader on the SAFE Network Forum, chrisfostertv, has read the essays of David Irvine as well and has edited the articles so that the use of bitcoins is replaced with SAFEcoins. Chrisfostertv’s post goes as follow:

Machines that own themselves in SAFEcoin

Yes I really mean machines that own themselves. This is a post that will take the reader through my vision of the future.I see this future as within this decade, i.e. the next six years.


Imagine an AI machine is built, say a robotic waiter. Not too difficult, we almost have this already, but let’s add a tiny difference.

This robot waiter will serve food and drinks to people in a restaurant all day every day. It requires certain things such as:

  • Power
  • Repairs

The robot charges customers for each item they buy. The customer simply pays in SAFEcoin to the robots internal wallet. The robot can plug itself into a wall socket and recharge, of course paying the wall socket’s wallet in SAFEcoin. The robot can be paid by the establishment owner by the hour, or the robot could be paid a % of all orders. This is something that people will resolve as time goes by and choose different systems initially.

As the robot breaks or servo’s wear out (if using servo’s of course, another story) it will require repairs. This is a simple mechanism. The robot takes himself to the repair shop and of course pays the mechanic in SAFEcoin. Of course many security features will be built in such as a tamper proof wallet to prevent theft of the system.

As the robot requires no tips and will not steal, this scenario looks pretty workable, but let’s take it further.

Who built the robot?

This is easy, anybody or any company. This is a market driven environment and will be open to all comers. The competition to release these will be ferocious, eventually. The early mover position here will initially be costly, but the rewards could be significant.

These people can benefit in many ways, the robot could immediately pay a % of its takings to the builder, maybe even up to a certain level. After the builder is paid back, the robot can reduce its costs to the restaurant. The builder could sell the robot, the options of varying business models are truly staggering. In any case the opportunities for success are patently obvious though. Without SAFEcoin or similar these options are incredibly limited, if not impossible.

Who owns the robot?

This is potentially the beautiful part. After a payback period, the robot owns himself. It can go from restaurant to restaurant to find the best paying restaurant. It can tell the restaurant owner how much it has to charge to allow it to perform its duty. It can also be outperformed by a newer model that is faster, cheaper or in other ways more suitable.

What happens at the robot’s end of life?

At the end of life the robot will check itself into a builder. The builder will charge the robot for whatever SAFEcoin it has left and of course parts. The robot may be re-purposed to perform other tasks, upgraded to a later model etc.

Other obvious examples

  • Autonomous car, e.g. A car that picks people up, gets repaired and pays for its own power.
  • Service station attendant, pretty similar to above idea.
  • Aeroplane
  • Train

The list is pretty obvious, huge and purely the tip of the iceberg

Add autonomous networks to our picture

As I have said before though, SAFEcoin is a part of this system, there is much more required. One extremely important thing needed will be an autonomous data network. This is where the SAFEnetwork fits into the picture. If these machines or systems could communicate, we will see real improvements. So, imagine again that self driving taxi. As one drives past a person looking for a taxi, it would automatically call any taxi in the proximity to pick up.

This is OK, but even we humans can do better than that. So now we add the ability to store, share and analyse data between all the taxis. Now what?

Now the cabs can take bookings, analyse traffic in real-time, work together to find the best repair deals and much more. Interestingly these taxis would not be killing anyone, breaking laws or telling lies about when they will arrive. They would also run at maximum financial efficiency, only charging what they required to say on the road. That seems like an improvement and one that actually costs less, saves fuel, helps the environment and provides a better service to us all.

This is only the beginning.

A proof of concept of this could be done now. We have SAFEcoin, SAFEnetwork is nearing launch and Google have the cars and the capital. There is no reason these improvements need to be decades away.

The dark side

Before I move on though, there could be a dark side. If these taxi’s could now recognise people, get to know where you live, work and play. The service may improve. They could be waiting near where you will want one etc. as they analyse patterns and behaviours. If the police and governments could use that data, its big trouble.

This is where we are heading, but it is also why I keep harping on about autonomous machines and systems. If the limits of the system were defined correctly, spying will not happen, as it would break the maths. Of course there could be very good reason to allow some of these things to happen. If the laws could be into a system where they could be automatically carried out by machines, perhaps it would not be such a bad thing.

Imagine a thief spotted by the system, is captured and the crime stopped there and then, I am sure we all agree that seems like a good thing. Where are the limits though? This part will be a long way off, I hope.

Of course being able to code laws into a system would require the laws were logical, complete and that is another blog post, a worldwide legal system.

Reality check

I see machines and services on the SAFEnetwork calculating in real-time, the input’s and outputs of the systems language would be in a form that machines could quickly interpret. This data would be using many mathematical techniques, especially Bayesian Inference type tools, to enhance existing knowledge. As this will be real-time, then human understanding of this data will be minimal. It will also be a very limited view of the data that we humans could get.

Decisions will be happening at very high speeds. At any time all we would see is a thought developing. I have no fear of misuse of advanced systems like this by humans. I think you need to bend logic to be evil and that act makes the system weak and easily defeated. It’s a reason I like computing and the sea (nature) etc. there are no lies in these things and that’s what makes them endure.

Now what can we do?

Medical advances

OK taxis are a good easy example, but this new system will bring things we could not imagine today. Take CT scans or X-rays, today we get them for specific issues when we feel some symptom. A doctor will get us processed to check our shoulder or whatever part ails us. A clinician will do the scan and a specialist (if we are lucky) will analyse the part of the scan that reflects the part in question. Why not scan out whole body?

The answer is humans are checking the scan and can only deal with small amounts of information. This is all only when we have suffered enough to begin this process.

If the medical machines such as scanners were all part of an autonomous system that could infer information as it went along then amazing things would happen. No longer would we have to wait until we we’re ill and have that part looked at.

The whole body scan would be analysed by machines that will not miss anything. In addition the scans of every other person would be factored into the diagnosis. Where there were similar differences in organ sizes, skin impurities etc. then these factors would be included. This means you are treated by the best doctor in the world. the next person will take that title from you though.

Such systems would mean that we would be treated for ailments we never even knew we had or were about to get. Now it’s not difficult to take this several steps further and add in gene processing to the equation. Then the machines would be able to not only detect ailments, but be able to apply the exact medicine in the exact dose for our unique body.

So this is not machines competing with doctors, no there is no competition in this case.

The end of corruption

As machines award and search for suppliers and consumers to match requirements the days of bribery are over. A logical system would not understand what a bribe is never mind accept one. It makes no sense, invites errors into the system and would simply be rejected. The only way to win work will be to give a value that is now required, that is it.

The tax avoidance and evasion techniques employed by many large corporations and wealthy individuals, would simply not compute. These loopholes would just not exist.

Remove imbalances in world wealth

In a system managed by such machines, the supply should meet exactly the demand. This will mean that there will be a little borrowing to begin with, but as the system calculated all the parameters and adjusted its prediction models then supply would in fact equal demand. In such a system there would be zero trade deficit or debt.

If the system had a baseline that ensured everyone had food, water, heat (or cool) and a comfortable dwelling then all additional perks may or may not exist during fluctuations in trade due to weather or unforeseen conditions in the marketplace. This would be most obviously implemented as a global tax the system made to ensure these basic needs. Over time these basics should include education and training to offer value to society.

Learn how to dream again

One place humans beat machines every time, is the ability to dream. These dreams make us unique and compel us to innovate, explore and reach beyond our capabilities. A trait apparently unique to us, or at least way more abundant in us than any other species we know of.

So many of us today, work very hard paying of debts we never created, for faceless people. Even those of us lucky enough to have no personal debt are having to pay government debt. Today we are a society so unhinged and confused that we dare not dream of better things.

In some parts of the world over 50% of wealth is in financial services, 30% of all cash is hidden offshore and we are all trying to make what’s left for us stretch to allow us to live a little. If we remove the imbalances and work within a system that’s logical and to a set of rules we can easily see and agree on then these issues go away, immediately.

Then we will have people who can sit on hill in the sunshine and wonder WHAT IF?

Then we start moving forward again and reverse the decline created by imperfect and corrupt systems that we have in place today.

So just imagine a clear head, no worries whatsoever and just looking at a star or a bird or whatever and just think WHAT IF?

That is our logical destination and it will happen.

David Irvine’s original post can be read here (part 1) and here (part 2).